A Shaktar the system: Champions Chelsea outclassed and outplayed in Donetsk
Chelsea's Champions League hopes were left in a giant hole in the heart of Ukraine’s mining country last night.
And Roberto Di Matteo must now act to ensure the Blues do not go into yet another “October surprise” tailspin.
In the Donbass Arena, the European champions were given a hiding from start to finish, second best in every department as their early-season form vanished.
This was supposed to be the night when Di Matteo’s new-look team laid out a statement of intent to Europe. Instead, run ragged by a Willian-inspired Shakhtar, they were a mess, with not even the return of John Terry able to alter the tide of events.
Poor defending by David Luiz and then Eden Hazard was punished in brutal fashion, as Alex Teixeira put Donetsk in front and fellow Brazilian Fernandinho doubled their advantage, to leave Chelsea facing the humiliation of a potential group-stage exit.
With Manchester United looming on Sunday, this was the worst time for Juan Mata to have an off-night, Oscar – before scoring two minutes from time – and Hazard to have shockers and Fernando Torres to do nothing to justify his cause.
Di Matteo has to patch up morale and get his side playing, and quickly. Recent Chelsea history shows how often one shock defeat has undermined an entire campaign.
While Terry’s return as skipper – wearing a United Against Racism armband – dominated the pre-match agenda, Di Matteo knew his men were walking into a lion’s den.
If that message had not been taken on board, Chelsea had no option but to recognise the fight they faced when they went behind inside three minutes.
David Luiz must take the blame, failing to get in any sort of challenge as a throw-in from the Chelsea right reached Luiz Adriano.
And while Terry made half a block, the ball fell perfectly for Alex Teixeira, one of four Brazilians in the Donetsk side, to fire across Petr Cech and into the bottom corner.
Chelsea had shown an ability to fight their way out of a corner at White Hart Lane but this was another task altogether, especially when Frank Lampard was forced off after 18 minutes by a hamstring pull. Eden Hazard came on and Ramires dropped into midfield.
Even by this stage, with Willian at the centre of most of the home side’s best moves, Chelsea were under the cosh. And when they did play it forward, Fernando Torres failed to make the ball stick.
Willian, who was close to joining Chelsea in January and who is still on Andre Villas-Boas’s wish-list at Spurs, cut inside Ramires to fire over the top, had another shot deflected wide and saw a third curl into Cech’s arms.
Without Terry, standing up to the challenge while those around him failed to follow suit, it might have been worse. He made a vital interception after a lightning break by Henrik Mkhitaryan and followed it up by a huge block when Darijo Srna danced in off the right to let fly.
Chelsea were being out-fought and out-thought, Cech clinging on from Mkhitaryan’s skidding effort, the trio behind Torres struggling to impose themselves, and the home side’s counter-attacking pace frightening.
At times, it was panic stations at the back. Cech clawed a strike by Mkhitaryan over the bar after sublime play by Willian, then surpassing himself again to somehow deny fellow-Czech Tomas Hubschman from four yards out after Oscar hacked off the line. They needed the interval.
Chelsea had to change the pattern of the game and Mata, so impressive in recent weeks, might have done better than fire wastefully over when teed up by Hazard soon after the restart.
But a minute later the Belgian, worried about his ankle, was caught in possession on half-way by Willian - and Chelsea paid the ultimate price.
Luis Adriano surged forward, committing both centre-backs before slipping to his right, for Fernadinho to thrash across Cech and into the net.
Chelsea looked to react, Ramires forcing a punch away by Andriy Pyatov but Fernandinho was not far away from a third as Donetsk continued to catch the Blues on the break, although John Obi Mikel was close with an acrobatic effort before Torres was put out of his continuing misery as Daniel Sturridge entered.
Sturridge had an impact, his run allowing Branislav Ivanovic to storm through and set up Oscar. The damage had been done. The only relief came from Copenhagen.
Filed under: Euro 2012
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